The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) unveiled a $700,000 training tunnel designed to provide a realistic training environment for fire, police and emergency response departments from local jurisdictions.
Located in Landover, Md., the new facility is available for emergency response departments to use in mock fire and rescue exercises, disaster drills and other simulations.
"The tunnel training facility is the first of its kind in the country," said Cheryl Johnson, WMATA spokeswoman. "It will provide an invaluable training environment for emergency personnel and police personnel from various departments. This facility will familiarize personnel with the tunnel environment so that in a real emergency, they will be able to quickly and safely effect rescues."
The 260-foot tunnel was built above an existing rail spur in the Pennsylvania facility and houses two old Metrorail cars positioned to resemble a wreck, as well as a simulated electrified third rail, cabling and lighting identical to a real Metro tunnel. Rescuers inside the tunnel can communicate through emergency phones connected to a simulated operations control center.
"For three years, we have been exploring new ways to enhance rail safety training at Metro, and the opening of this facility will help meet the needs of all emergency responders in the D.C. metropolitan area," said Fred Goodine, WMATA's assistant general manager for safety and risk protection.
WMATA has spent the past year building the tunnel. While the facility was not built in response to the events of Sept. 11, according to Johnson, "those events gave a greater sense of urgency to the need to have such a training facility."
"We certainly hope a situation never occurs in the underground portion of our system, however, if anything should ever occur, emergency responders will be even more prepared than ever before to handle such a situation," Goodine said.
Other transit and emergency agencies nationwide will have access to the training facility. Federal Transit Administrator Jenna Dorn said transit agencies can apply for $50,000 FTA grants to cover training costs at the new facility. "Transit agencies would just contact us through our safety office and let us know when they would like to come and get training in the facility," Johnson explained.
The emergency training tunnel is available 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, and offers a controlled environment for emergency response teams training.